My Grandson, Our Intern

Today, Lucas, my grandson started his internship with the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). I am very glad that he chose to come all the way from Canada to intern here. And it leads me to reflect on the notion of internship.

Internship is an effective programme for anyone interested in learning hands-on what a particular job entails. It can be a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training, similar to an apprenticeship. For people who are not sure about what they want to do, and it serves as a trial. It can also be for students who are looking at the prospect of entering a course of study in a particular discipline and wants to know what it is like to be in that industry. Or it can be a time for students to be exposed to the working world in a realistic environment.

From the employers’ perspective, internship can provide them with cheap or free labour for low-level tasks. Stereotypically, interns had been treated no better than “tea and office boys” in the past. More long-term looking employers invest in the prospect of interns returning to the company after completing their education, in that situation requiring little or no training.

I see internship a little differently. I see it as a great way to give back to community by investing in promising young people by giving them the career guidance they need before they embark on their course of education. It is an opportunity to mentor them, and to give them a real-life education that is practical and relevant to what they would have to face in the working world.

In my years of law practice, I know of at least five students who decided to study law after spending a brief period during their vacation at my law firm as my interns. These bright students learn more about what law practice is about during their internship than in any other situation I know of. They are given a well-rounded experience of what being a lawyer entails, and that experience enables them to know what they want in their subsequent law studies to prepare them for a career in law. These students told me that their experience of observing, learning and doing some of the work of a lawyer help them to make an informed decision in respect of the aspects of law they choose to study and the area of practice they would like to focus on.

Since coming SKM, I have the privilege of observing a number of interns who passed through our system here. Almost every one of them have had a positive experience. In one case, the student came back and interned with us on two occasions. This student, Farhan, who started as an ITE student is now graduating soon from the Singapore Management University. He has also started an NGO of his own while still an undergraduate. We also have two sisters, Jacinta and Juvina, who interned with us at different times. Some of our interns were recommended by other interns before them. Many of them are still in touch with us and serve as our volunteers.

Farhan (Ex-Intern) and Voluntarius Exco
Photo Credit: Voluntarius

I do believe that no matter what a young person chooses to do with his life and vocation, a stint with SKM as an intern will be most profitable. At SKM we treat an intern as an integral member of the team. We expect the interns to participate in discussions, strategizing, and planning. Interns are expected to contribute ideas, to make decisions and to lead. They are inculcated with our core values of synergy, kinship and positive mindset, and they are challenged to believe that whatever they do will make a difference in helping to foster a kinder and more gracious society.

Hence when my grandson decided to study engineering in September at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia with a couple of months to spare before he starts his life as an undergraduate, I suggested that he spends his time here as an intern without pay. I believe it will be good for him. Here are the reasons why I think it is good for him.
  1. It will be a cross-cultural experience for him. He was born in Canada and though he has been here several times to spend time with his grandparents, this is a maturing time in his life when he can absorb and make what he learn here meaningful and relevant. 
  2. He will learn all the cognate values of kindness and see how they are actually applied in everyday living. He will see the effects of the practice of kindness and graciousness on the social environment. 
  3. He will learn to work with adults from a culture different from his, have his EQ tested and his ability to hold his own ground tried. He will appreciate what it takes to be able to initiate and yet at the same time function as a team player because TEAM KINDNESS is a tight ship. 
  4. He will be challenged to use his gifts to bear on identifying issues, articulating them, overcoming obstacles and finding solutions to problems. 
  5. He will learn more about the ethos of Singapore. This is good for him for part of his roots is in Singapore. In today’s globalized context, it is good for him not to forget his ancestry and where his forefathers came from.

And for me, I get to watch him grow under the tutelage of his supervisor Michelle. I will have quality time with him at home and outside of the work environment as his grand father. But at work, he is an intern, and I expect him to learn and grow like any other intern, to the end that he will be better prepared for the real world that lies ahead of him. And most important of all, I trust he will inculcate the values of a kind and gracious gentleman.


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